Posted in Autistic Identity, Parenting, School governance, School Leadership

Autistics Make GREAT Moms

This post should be about how much I am insightful about my child’s needs, judging from the title.  And I believe I am good at that sort of thing.  However, this post is not that.  Instead, because I was asked if I was another person’s mother multiple times yesterday, I thought this would be far more interesting to talk about, given the current Autistic community speaking out about being great parents in the wake of #BoycottToSiri.

As the setup to this story, I have a lone 8th grader.  He’s pretty amazing, if I do say so myself, and part of why he’s amazing is how much progress he’s made in the last year and a bit since I came to this school.  He used to be very silent, especially around adults, and took a very long time to read.  His work was adequate at best and he seemed to be behind grade level.

This year, he’s at grade level and can explain things better than most 8th graders in other schools (since we have no basis for comparison here, we have to look elsewhere; this is probably a good thing and less stressful for him anyway).

Because we have a large developmental gap between him and my next youngest student who fits in best with the 4th/5th graders, he likes to work in the office.  This works out fine because 1) we get another person to answer the doorbell, 2) I can teach him in between my work, if he needs it, which frees up the one-room schoolhouse, and 3) we can, when we’re both stressed play Uno or Yu-Gui-Oh, or what have you.  He’s seemed to move along even faster, academically, since now he can choose the order he does things in (being mindful about what time I have that’s free to teach), and he still joins the rest of the class for meals, gym, and art.  He even DIRECTS gym now, teaching the other kids games that country school kids used to play years ago like “Ghosts in the graveyard.”  He learned about this game online.

So, this is my 8th grader, and because there IS such a gap between him and the others, and because he’s going to have learned as much as he can, being in the office with us, he wants to go to another school next year, and we found a charter that is project-based and quite small, with lots of quirky students he should fit in great with.

SO…here’s the story.

Continue reading “Autistics Make GREAT Moms”

Posted in Autistic Identity, Catholic education, Catholic leadership, higher education, Identity, writing

Goodbye, Academia (Again)

[Image: A brick wall has been broken down and the foreground has some debris that’s difficult to make out. There is a large, green coniferous tree standing directly in front of the opening. It is sunny outside. A mist hides some of what is beyond, but the world outside seems welcoming.]
If you follow me regularly, you’ll know that I’ve recently been conflicted about whether to focus my non-school related energy on pursuing an Ed.D. or focusing on my writing.  You may also remember, I’ve got all the Ph.D. courses necessary for a Ph.D. in Education or Library and Information Science, but I left the path to the ivory tower because of a lack of support.

The little voice in me finally started to speak; actually, she screamed during this #BoycottToSiri saga that’s been going on lately.

The little voice that is me had already been complaining considerably while I was writing my paper to end the semester.  I knocked the thing out pretty quickly and it’s fine; it answered my questions, and I did okay.  But I hated every minute of writing that academic paper.

Here’s what I learned about myself.

Continue reading “Goodbye, Academia (Again)”

Posted in Advocacy, intersectionality

It seems no one cares…#BoycottToSiri

It’s very difficult to watch the BoycottToSiri protest that I mentioned last week go, effectively, nowhere.

Autistic Twitter is a pretty darned intersectional place.  We talk about race, gender, sexuality, and the larger group of disability.  We rarely talk much about religion, but people haven’t gotten all upset with me because I do, and someone probably should address religion, so I and a few others fill the quieter space for that.  We fight with each other sometimes, because it’s hard to unlearn a lot of old stereotypes we learned before we realized we used to fight back against them before we were taught the social rule of “you must do x or you are a bad person.”

Anyway, my point is, other than some fabulous parents of Autistics who are truly interested in hearing our voices (by the way, thanks for this, parents!), I maybe only saw one Disabled activist who wasn’t Autistic talking about it (there probably were many more, but some of the people on my own Twitter list seemed strangely silent, and it didn’t come up in the intersectional spaces I’d imagine it ought to have.

Because, remember, we’re talking about forced sterilization of a Disabled person without his consent.

Unfortunately, all this was going on at the same time the U.S. government was passing this huge taxbill which is, well, not good.  And, unfortunately, a lot of people only had so many spoons and it was overwhelming.

I get that.

I also get the reality that Disabled people in general are used to the idea that people talking about their bodies and what to do about them is status quo.  It’s still wrong, but it’s so very much a part of their everyday existence that it’s like when Black people ignore a race-based protest.  To them, it’s another Wednesday or whatever, but us privileged folk (and so often, Disabled twitter writers can pass as Neurotypical) are incensed because we see this as unusual.  That’s another reason why, I think, the bigger Disability community didn’t get upset with us.

There’s another double-edged sword here.  I am still waiting to hear back from an agent about representation, and she did mention she does look for people who won’t go offending a huge audience.  This is the reality of life as we live it: gatekeepers want people who don’t get upset when another author publishes her work, or at least, we can get angry if and only if everyone else is angry, too.  A huge Trump protest?  Fine…you’ve got numbers.  This sort of thing?  What am I trying to do, piss off one of the big six publishers?

So, there’s that, too.  And that’s also why I didn’t volunteer that I had this blog and Twitter account.

But I’m Autistic and I was never really good at the social rule that said you shut up when you see or hear about oppression.  It may have taken me years to get awoken to all the oppression around me (and I’m still learning and still making mistakes), but once I knew it was oppression, there I was, speaking up.

It hurts me too much not to speak up.

And this is what the lived reality is about being an Autistic, in general.

There are a few of us who are ridiculously nice; they do a better job at passing in intersectional places.  There are tokens in every community, and I guess I shouldn’t criticize them.

But this hurts.  The people who have the privilege of standing with us haven’t come.

Is it because their spoon drawers are depleted?  Is it because they don’t know or don’t care?

Or is it they believe we should, in fact, be treated in this way?

 

Posted in Advocacy

STAY IN YOUR LANE: #BoycottToSiri

Yesterday, I wrote about how real advocates correct their negative behaviors when they are corrected by others.  How, when you are an advocate (or want to believe yourself to be an advocate), you apologize and try to learn from what’s going on.  What mistake did you make?  How can you make it better?

What you don’t do is get into a fight with the advocate who is trying to help educate you on the harm you’re doing.

If you’re not on Autistic Twitter, you might not know that Autistic advocate Amethyst Shaber, a fantastic advocate, found out that they were referenced in a book called To Siri With Love.  It’s published by HarperCollins, a major publisher, and written by Judith Newman, mother to an Autistic and standard variety “my life sucks because my kid has autism” variety.

The author called Amethyst (who prefers they/them pronouns, and tells you so outright) a girl, and misconstrued Amethyst’s identity, using what the author believed would be a flattering description, but was actually quite condescending.  At no point does the author reach out to Amethyst, but she (the author) uses Amethyst’s work in the book and twists it so it’s not quite right.  In this way, the author apparently thinks that she herself is being helpful, but in reality, when the author presented Amethyst’s work in that way, Newman was not.  Amethyst looks into it and is concerned about the use of Autism Speaks as a reference in the book as well.

Amethyst objected, the author said “sorry” and she’d update it “in the next edition.”

The author was condescending.

Amethyst and other advocates actually start looking into the book and find passages that are eugenicist in nature including the author’s desire to have power of attorney over her son so she can get him sterilized when he comes of age.

Autistic Twitter explodes.

The standard trolls come out of the woodwork to defend this book and the author, not understanding what she’s actually did and why it’s so morally repugnant.

The author keeps saying snarky things, condescending things.

SHE WILL NOT GET INTO HER LANE NOR WILL SHE APOLOGIZE, SINCERELY, AND WORK TO MAKE AMENDS.

Check out #BoycottToSiri for the details.

Oh, and this goes without saying, DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK.  The author and publisher ought not to profit when they were given a chance to do the right thing, and chose, instead, to show what kinds of negative people are involved with this book.

 

 

Posted in Advocacy, intersectionality

Stay in Your Lane: How to Feel Empowered, Not Insulted If You Are Given This Invitation

The expression, “stay in your lane,” is getting increasingly common among Disability activists.

The term is a reference to driving, and if you veer all over the road, you’ll end up hurting the other drivers.  In addition, it points out that you don’t own the whole road; others have a right to use the road as much as you do.

Often, we say it to parent activists and other busybodies who can only speak about their personal experiences, and suddenly, they’re swerving over to talk about the Autistic experience or the experiences of another Disabled person.  It’s also used in issues of race or class or religion.  Basically, anything that is deeply personal, about which only someone who has lived the experience, can really testify about.

If someone witnesses you talking about a life experience that you do not actually live for yourself, it’s possible an activist will tell you to “stay in your lane.”

When you hear that, you might get offended.  You might try to respond that you have as much rights as anyone else to speak your truth.  You’ve seen Muslim people, Autistic people, Disabled people, Black people, whatever you’re talking about, and so somehow you know the experience.

Seeing something and even living beside someone does not guarantee that you know the experience.  Sure, you might understand things a little better than someone who has never lived with a Disabled person (etc.), but that doesn’t mean you belong in their lane, so to speak.

But that’s okay.

Let me tell you about something that will help you feel a little better if someone tells you to, “stay in your lane.”

Continue reading “Stay in Your Lane: How to Feel Empowered, Not Insulted If You Are Given This Invitation”

Posted in Autistic Identity, Parenting

To Push, or Not to Push: Figuring out How to Parent Autistics

One of the things that’s difficult about being an Autistic parent of an Autistic is knowing how to raise my own kid.

See, my husband and I are Autistics of the generation that, in general, few people knew they were Autistic.  We were the “do it and shut up” generation which meant that we were told to do things the same as our peers whether or not it “felt weird” or “hurt” or otherwise didn’t go as planned.

Obviously that only works so long, and our parents realized, over time, they had pretty weird kids.

[Image: A little blonde girl, aged around 7 or 8, holds her head against a chalkboard with writing on it, and looks down; she has a pink barrette in hair and wears braids. She looks stressed out.]
My husband used to read a lot; using his reading, which is something in white culture is considered an advantage, especially when the child reads books above grade level, to hide.  I used to do the same, but at recess, I’d swing a lot.  A LOT, as in, the whole recess, and use the time on the swings to imagine my fantasy kingdom.  Neither strategy makes a kid a lot of friends.

Side note: hiding to read or playing board games by yourself is considered anti-social in Black culture and you will be harassed and told by the adults to do something else if you use this common Autistic child trick as your escape method.

I got invited to birthday parties when we had to invite everyone, and my asthma and severe allergies meant that I was never going to have to stay overnight in a house with a dog, so I could cut my visits short.

Over time, though, they stopped inviting me, when it was an option not to invite the entire class.  Parties became subtle, and I just assumed no one had them anymore.

Oh, they had them.  They had them, and I wasn’t invited.

Continue reading “To Push, or Not to Push: Figuring out How to Parent Autistics”

Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity

Wisdom from the Professor: Learning Who Has Been to Narnia

[Image: an old wooden wardrobe sits on a floor under the rafters of an otherwise empty attic room. Nothing there!]
I was reading a children’s book yesterday.  I wish I could remember which, but I’ve been stimming through reading the last few days and I’ve devoured more than a dozen in the last three days, staying up late if I need to, and spending way-to-much time in bed falling asleep and waking up and reading more.

Last weekend was a major fundraiser for our school.  It was too much for me and it sent me to bed the whole weekend afterward, but with reading by my side, I readily got through our two-day week at school.

But I digress already from my main point.

The author of whatever book it was referenced the professor from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

If you have not yet read this series in its entirety (at least The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Magician’s Nephew, my two personal favorites, go and read them before I ruin things for you!

I’m serious!  Read them now before reading this blog post.

Did you read them?

Okay, if not, you’ve been warned.

Continue reading “Wisdom from the Professor: Learning Who Has Been to Narnia”

Posted in Identity

High Functioning Guilt: Why Having Too Much Makes Some Autistics Struggle MORE

In general, the puzzle piece symbol is offensive to Autistics because it focuses on the image of someone being “broken” when people are never broken.  I’ve got an alternative take on the puzzle that I’d like to run past you.  I think this image is more appropriate for all types of “divergence.”

Envision this: every human being gets a puzzle, at conception (or birth for those of you who insist it comes later).  Each puzzle is slightly different, of course, because all of us are different people, but we all get a puzzle.  Some of us get 100-piece puzzles, others 1,000-piece, but everyone gets a puzzle.

Here’s the problem for people like me who got a big puzzle.

Continue reading “High Functioning Guilt: Why Having Too Much Makes Some Autistics Struggle MORE”

Posted in Autistic Identity, Identity, intersectionality, Parenting

I Can’t vs. I Don’t Want to: How the Expectations of Being Female Smother Autistic Women

In Western culture, as women, we are expected to do it all.  We are expected to work outside the home full-time because if we don’t, we’ve betrayed the feminist cause.  We’re also supposed to be perfect mothers, raising our children in perfectly clean homes being fed perfectly balanced meals or we’re a bad mother.  When we get tired about all this and ignore our husbands, we’re bad wives.

The rules also tell us we really ought to be going onto school to get a degree, then an advanced one.  This will not only empower us, but we will advance in our careers.

But if we advance in our careers, who will care for our homes, children, and husbands?

In this way, women in general are overwhelmed in our culture.

[Image: a white, middle-aged woman sits with her head in her hands. She wears a red shirt, and has brown hair. She looks overwhelmed.]
But let’s add Autism into the mix.

As an Autistic mother of an Autistic child, I had a lot of problems when I dragged my kid in public because that’s what you do.

I worried that he’d run around.  I worried he’d run away.  I’d worry people were judging me because of my kid and whatever it would be that he’d do.

And I’d get insanely pissed off at things like how the library has all these self-checkouts which are supposed to be “helpful” but unless you have a kid who wants to help you check out books, you cannot both mind a child AND do your own checking out.

Unless you let watching the child go.

That seems to be the path neurotypicals around me were taking.  They just figured, they were kids and they’d do what they did.

Of course, their kids running around doing whatever they want annoyed me, giving me sensory overload, while I was trying to manage my own son’s sensory overload because of their kids running around causing all the drama.

But for some reason they didn’t ever seem to worry about what people thought about their kids running around like little monsters.

They didn’t seem to, or have to, worry that someone might come to their home to take their child away because their child was being raised by a Disabled parent.

That is a thing, you know.  In some states simply being Disabled is enough for child welfare to take your kids from you.

And they could move on after the wretched experience at the library and not obsess over it, thinking and planning about how it would be better the next time if I only…

See, one of the gifts-that-can-be-a-curse about Autism in women is we’re super-empathetic.  Many of us can literally sense all the feelings around us and we cannot shut them out.  You know all the old people at the library by which I mean all of the adults who do not have kids with them?  They’re all judging you because you’re not minding your kids and letting them run around.

We feel that; neurotypicals shut it out.

Unfortunately we also obsess over things: we plan conversations for hours before we have them, and we mull over things that happen to us over and over again, trying to figure out what it was that we did wrong.

Because we learned a long time ago, that WE did wrong.  It’s always us.

Continue reading “I Can’t vs. I Don’t Want to: How the Expectations of Being Female Smother Autistic Women”

Posted in Self-Care

Holiday Meltdown: Withdrawal as Self-Preservation

Here’s last year’s Thanksgiving melt-down.  If any of you are feeling like I did last year, I hope it helps someone to feel like you’re not alone.  If you’ve read the blog recently, you know I’ve made some progress on these points, but I left this post untouched to point out the sheer and utter MESS I was in last year, this time, due to anxiety.

I usually work over Thanksgiving.  The beauty of having a job in the standardized testing industry where you primarily work in tests for the college-bound is that it’s generally predictable: in the fall, it’s busy.  You work Thanksgiving, the whole weekend, and you may or may not work Christmas.  The rush begins between August and September sometime and ends sometime in December.

This schedule means I don’t have to do holiday stuff except on my own terms.  We live in a culture in the U.S. where work drives everything, so if you have to work, you work.

So when my aunt decided to host Thanksgiving, I declined for all of us.  My husband and son can sometimes do Thanksgiving alone at my parents’ or my sister’s house since they feel somewhat comfortable there.  My parents’ house is so easy I usually just bring the laptop and work.  But not my aunt’s house.  My mother kept pestering about maybe we could just have my husband and son go over and I can work, but they wouldn’t and honestly, I didn’t want to and since I had the work excuse, I didn’t have to.

Then they cancelled work.

This year, we finished the administration before Thanksgiving and I had Thanksgiving and the day after off.  This never happens.

I ended up lying and keeping us safe from having to go.  I feel bad because I usually don’t mind holiday stuff, but I’m so low on spoons right now due to working the new job, having the writing teacher causing me grief, and other such fun, I just needed the time away from lots of other people.

I was having a great time playing Rift and watching old tv shows.  I was tired since I’d gotten up at 4 to write, which sometimes happens, so I was in bed for a nap by 1.  Of course, this was when my parents called.  No one answered.  Shortly after that, I was melting down.

Here’s what happened and what I’m learning from it.

Continue reading “Holiday Meltdown: Withdrawal as Self-Preservation”